BLANTYRE — Malawian police tightened security in main cities on Wednesday in case of anti-government protests even though organisers had a day earlier postponed the vigils after deadly riots last month.
Several shops and banks also did not open for business in Blantyre, Lilongwe and Mzuzu — the three main towns affected by last month’s security force crackdown on protesters which killed 19 people, police said.
President Bingu wa Mutharika is facing growing anger over chronic fuel and foreign exchange shortages and is also accused of infringing on democratic freedoms in the impoverished southern African country.
“We have intensified our security. There is a police officer at every corner of the streets,” Davie Chingwalu, police spokesman for the south, told AFP.
“We want to protect property for those thugs who may want to take advantage of the situation to loot.”
Police had also tightened security in Lilongwe, the scene of heavy looting and arson on July 20, said John Namalenga, police spokesman for the central region.
“But most shops and banks are closed, fearful of looting,” he said.
In the northern city of Mzuzu, where police shot eight people dead in last month’s unrest, police spokesman Edward Longwe said business was normal although some shops and banks had not opened.
Rights groups on Tuesday called off anti-government vigils that were planned for Wednesday to demand action on their concerns over economic and democratic governance.
They postponed the demonstrations after Mutharika loyalists obtained a court injunction.
Government representatives and civil society leaders held talks under the mediation of the United Nations office and agreed Tuesday that an opposition vigil should be allowed to go ahead within four weeks, a statement said.